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Santorum’s Straw Man

Both right-wing conservatives and Democrats of every stripe cheered for Rich Santorum to win the Michigan Primary.  He had been doing so well recently that he looked like the giant killer that would put Mitt Romney out of contention .  But yesterday he lost it by a nose after giving some of the worst stump speeches by a major candidate ever seen in American politics.

If you can’t beat your opponent, you can try to build a straw man effigy and beat that instead. But you have to be clever to make the straw man look convincing.  Santorum’s clumsy construction fooled no one:

“The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country…to say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes me want to throw up.”

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To be fair, the nominal cause of Santorum’s nausea was an old President Kennedy speech, but make no mistake; he was talking about Obama.  “I think we need to have a free exercise of religion in this country and it’s important for those First Amendment freedoms to be alive and well in America and I think they are threatened here in America as we’ve seen by President Obama.”  One small problem:  Neither Obama, Kennedy nor any other reputable figure in America has ever suggested that people of faith have no place in the public square.  Kennedy was a Catholic.  President Obama is a non-denominational Christian.

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Education is the means by which Obama, the ghost of Kennedy and any other dark agents of secular mischief will seek to rob the nation of its pious leaders.  “As you know,” said Santorum, “sixty-two percent of kids who enter college with some sort of faith commitment leave without it.  And I’ll bet you there are people in this room who give money to colleges and universities who are undermining the very principles of our country every single day by indoctrinating kids in left-wing ideology.” And he leaves no doubt about who to blame for America’s apostacy.  “President Obama once said he wants everybody out there to go to college; what a snob! I understand why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image.”

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Never mind that the SSRC study* Santorum spoke of reached the opposite conclusion — people who don’t go to college suffer a greater decline in church attendance than those who do.  These are mere facts, and you don’t stuff a straw man with facts. It’s just that if you want to win in the big game, you’d better make the straw look convincingly factual.

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* Mark D. Regnerus; Jeremy E. Uecker. “How Corrosive Is College to Religious Faith and Practice?”. http://religion.ssrc.org/reforum/Regnerus_Uecker.pdf

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3 comments on “

  1. George says:

    I love your blog. Since you totally skipped March, I’m curious to see if you’ll accept a guest contribution, titled “Reagan Tax Reform.”

    The Paul Ryan plan is actually much better this time around, at least for Medicare and Social Security. Also, slightly less of his spending cuts were dedicated to programs for the poor. Ultimately, what I think was most laughable was his tax plan. How do you slash the deficit with tax cuts targeted to the super-rich? It’s impossible.

    If tax cuts were the path to a balanced budget and economic prosperity, then why, with revenue/gdp lower than it’s been since 1950, do we have runaway deficits and economic collapse? When has a tax hike ever hurt the economy? Taxes were raised significantly when Clinton took office, and his economy did great. Bush cut taxes, and the economy has yet to fully recover from it. The “good old days” people are so nostalgic for (the 50s and 60s) saw income tax rates up to around 90%. The middle class was booming, and the deficit was next to nothing. It wasn’t until Reagan took office, cut taxes, and tripled the national debt that there was ever an issue.

    We need mostly spending cuts, but also tax increases. Why protect the least vulnerable Americans, while attacking the most vulnerable through Medicaid and Pell grant cuts? Before Grover Norquist, Republicans honestly didn’t care that much about taxes, nor did the voters. They didn’t love taxes, but they also weren’t obsessed with reducing them. I would raise taxes in a more traditional Republican way. Call it “Reagan Tax Reform.”

    First, simplify the tax code, something Reagan always wanted to do. Eliminate all deductions, including the mortgage interest deduction and even the standard deduction. Replace them with a guaranteed minimum income, something Martin Luther died fighting for. Why not simply abolish poverty? It could also replace unemployment insurance and welfare. How much bureaucracy would that eliminate?

    Wiping out deductions might put tax preparers out of business, but I think simplifying the tax code this way would otherwise be good for everyone. Imagine if you could just have your taxes withheld, and never file a W-2 every spring.

    Next, return marginal rates to the levels Reagan had for most of his presidency, which peaked at 50%, double what Paul Ryan is proposing. Sure, this amounts to redistributing that wealth, but are the poor and working class really going to sit on that money? No, they’re going to spend it on goods and services, and the profits will go right back into the hands of the wealthy. In the end, a strong economy will make the rich much richer, in spite of tax increases.

    Economic inequality would gradually diminish to 1950s levels, and the national debt would slip away. Both of those conditions would result in economic stability.

    – George

  2. Anonymous says:

    Where did you go?

  3. Adam says:

    I realize that it is now August 2013 and you left your comment regarding Mr. Santorum back in February however, I must comment on your posting. Rick Santorum is right on that Obama wants to remake us in his image and that he does not support people of religious values—especially when those values mean you have to protest gay marriage or abortion. Not only are those two examples of religious expression but I am sure you have heard about the persecution that people of Christian faith are experiencing in the military. You can be sure that I and many many many others are NOT going to allow any Obama-like person in in 2016. The extreme-left will be going back into the CLOSET.

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